Police Abuse

He Caught a Burglar in the Act. But When Police Came, He Says They Tased Him Instead of the Intruder.

Damien Smith claims in a new lawsuit that police racially profiled him and violated his First, Fourth, and 14th Amendment rights.


Damien Smith says he came home one night in October 2021 to find an intruder burglarizing his house. When the police arrived, they tased him instead of the intruder. Smith, who is black, has now filed a lawsuit against the officers, claiming that they racially profiled him and violated his civil rights.

The officers "racially profiled Mr. Smith, and acted pursuant to LAPD policies and practices that allow and encourage officers to over-react to black people, whom they wrongly assume to be criminals," the 24-page suit argues.

Smith is an actor and filmmaker known for his appearances in The Purge and Snowfall. Smith had even been working on a documentary about police brutality when he had his own police encounter on October 13, 2021. According to the suit, when he entered his house around 12:30 a.m., he caught an intruder in the process of burglarizing his home. The intruder remained in the apartment while Smith called 911.

LAPD officers arrived around 1:30 a.m. and entered through the back door of Smith's apartment. According to the lawsuit, police "unholstered their taser guns, pointed them toward Mr. Smith, and screamed at Mr. Smith: 'Get on the ground!'" Smith protested saying, "I live here, I called 911!" LAPD officers subsequently tased Smith, striking him in the chest and back. According to a Los Angeles Times interview with Smith, when police tased him, the intruder used the opportunity to escape.

Several LAPD officers then handcuffed Smith and walked him out to a patrol car. Outside, a small crowd of Smith's neighbors had gathered, and several told the officers that they "had arrested the wrong person" and that Smith "lived there." Still, the officers placed Smith in the patrol car and closed the door.

"The physical pain, emotional distress and embarrassment that Mr. Smith endured at the hands of Defendant Doe Officer Guillen and other Defendant Doe LAPD officers remains to this day," the complaint states. "This incident and injury occurred only because Defendant Doe Officer Guillen and other individual and Doe defendant LAPD officers…failed to carefully and thoroughly investigate the facts leading to Mr. Smith's 911 call."

The lawsuit alleges that the officers' actions violated Smith's First, Fourth, and 14th Amendment rights and asks for damages to cover medical expenses and attorney's fees, as well as special damages for the emotional suffering the ordeal inflicted on Smith.

"I believe there was a racial component to this whole situation, how the police treated me, how everything was executed," Smith told the Los Angeles Times. "I don't think it would have went down in this manner if I was not African American."

While Smith's tasing and arrest are outrageous, it's unclear whether his lawsuit will succeed. Police officers are protected by expansive qualified immunity, which makes holding police accountable for civil rights violations an uphill battle.